Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"The Greatest Heroes of the Bible: Abraham's Sacrifice"

It is hard to believe the film makers here could take a compelling Biblical story like Abraham's almost sacrifice of his only son and turn it into this tedious made for television slop.

Gene Barry is Abraham, who must face the local evil king who is trying to steal his flock of sheep. Barry accidentally kills the king's son in the dullest action scene ever committed to film. Abraham's wife, Sarah, is barren, so he fathered a son with Egyptian slave Hagar (inexplicably played by Lainie Kazan). Hagar and her uncle, Ross Martin, decide to plot against Abraham and his wife so Hagar's son Ishmael can inherit the flock of sheep. Three angels visit Abraham and announce Sarah (Fred MacMurray's wife from "My Three Sons) will be pregnant with a son. The three angels also promise to return when the boy is born, and yet we never see them again. Sarah has a boy, Isaac, and Kazan and Ishmael are banished out of the tribe, with nothing more than some bread, water, and a hopeful narration proclaiming how wonderful things turn out for Ishmael. Martin kidnaps Isaac, gives him to the king, and is promptly executed for dealing with the evil king. Won't scheming Egyptian slave uncles who did short lived cult TV series with Robert Conrad ever learn? Isaac is saved by Abraham, with a little help from God, and the final nail biting thirty seconds are devoted to God's requirement that Abraham sacrifice his beloved son.

Ouch. Gene Barry is good as Abraham, all beard and flowing robes. The rest of the cast tries, but they would not make it through your average junior high school tryouts for "Our Town." The "action" here is terribly choreographed. The direction is insipid and borders on inane. The screenplay is full of flowery, Biblical-sounding language, but fails the cast by taking the familiar story and turning it into a bad episode of "Knots Landing." This was filmed on location in Page, Arizona, and obviously in the middle of winter, since even in interior scenes the actors' breathing is visible. The special effects are a joke, consisting of old stock footage. Clocking in at fifty minutes, this feels twice as long.

This is an episode in a mini-series entitled "Greatest Heroes of the Bible," and I can only hope the other episodes are better. "Abraham's Sacrifice" is not as heartbreaking as the viewers'. (*) out of five stars.